The Ambani family drama, running for over three years, is now in climax mode. Anil Ambani publicly castigated both his elder brother Mukesh and petroleum minister Murli Deora at the Birla Matoshri Auditorium in South Mumbai on Tuesday. <b1>
By the evening, the reverberations of Anil's speech had found echoes at Raisina Hill, Delhi, with Deora, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Law Minister Veerappa Moily holding a meeting at the behest of the prime minister's office, to discuss the matter. "We have to put up a common face of the government before the public in this controversy,” a highly placed official told HT on condition of anonymity. Point, counterpoint
Following the meeting, the government decided its July 18 petition filed before the Supreme Court “will be modified shortly” to include the “comments of the Law Ministry and to take collective responsibility as the government, and not just the Petroleum Ministry”.
The Law and Petroleum ministries will meet on Wednesday to finalise the modifications.
This followed Anil blaming the Petroleum Ministry for its “partisan and biased approach” in the fight for gas between his Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) and Mukesh’s Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).
Anil said the ministry was helping Mukesh make “super normal profits”.
“It is a huge scandal that at $4.20, RIL wants to make super normal profits of over Rs 50,000 crore,” he said. “People wonder if the Petroleum Ministry realises its efforts to make this the uniform price will benefit only one monopolistic supplier, RIL, at the expense of the country!”
Of this Rs 50,000 crore, “RIL gets Rs 49,500 crore versus the government’s Rs 500 crore. Makes you wonder why the ministry is pushing so hard for higher gas prices, when 99 per cent gains will go to RIL.”
Anil, without naming Deora, said the bias in the ministry began in 2006, “coinciding with changes in the ministry… RIL is apparently firing from the shoulders of the Petroleum Ministry to renege on its contractual commitments.”
Deora, who took charge in January 2006, was unfazed: “He (Anil) is free to voice his opinion. All I can say is best of luck.”
The RIL spokesperson chose not to comment, saying “the matter is sub-judice”. Its counsel Harish Salve said “the points will be argued in court. All I can say is parties should not create public hysteria about this case”.
As mother Kokilaben, wife Tina and son Anshul looked on, Anil invoked father and Reliance Group founder Dhirubhai Ambani. “It (RIL) is India’s largest private sector company, a proud creation of India’s greatest entrepreneur, my late father.”
But, “the most important word for Dhirubhai Ambani was trust” and that word has gone missing. What RIL has been communicating in the last few years is that it has no regard for its own solemn word and, most of all, no morality in its headlong pursuit of corporate greed”.
Playing to the shareholders, Anil said the brunt of the government approved price of $4.20 per unit “will eventually be borne by hundreds of millions of power and fertiliser consumers”. This will also increase the cost of power by at least Rs 1 per unit, he said.